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Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has become the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious prize for arresting debut, The Discomfort of Evening. Here’s why you should read it.
The winner of the 2020 International Booker Prize has been awarded to Dutch author Marieke Lucas Rijneveld for their groundbreaking debut novel, The Discomfort of Evening.
The £50,000 prize, which will be split between the book’s author and its English translator Michele Hutchison, was awarded during a digital event live-streamed across Facebook and YouTube.
The author, who prefers to go by the pronouns they/them, grew up and still works on a dairy farm in the rural Netherlands. At just 29-years-old, they are the youngest-ever recipient of the prestigious literary prize for writing and translation.
Receiving the International Booker Prize on Wednesday, the young author said they wrote the words “be relentless” on the wall above their desk while writing the book.
“Today, when the world has been turned upside down and is showing its dark side, I often remember those words. So, write, read, win, lose, love each other, but be relentless in this,” they said in a powerful acceptance speech.
What is the Discomfort of Evening about?
Already a bestseller in the author’s native Netherlands, The Discomfort of Evening follows Jas, a young girl in a devout Christian farming community (similar to the one in which the author grew up) whose brother dies in an accident after she wishes he would die instead of her rabbit. Lost in grief, Jas’ family begins to unravel around her; while her own fantasies become increasingly disturbing.
Chosen from 124 books in 30 different languages, chair of the judges Ted Hodgkinson called The Discomfort of Evening “a tender and visceral evocation of a childhood caught between shame and salvation”.
He also called the remarkable debut “shocking”, saying, “It does deal with some very difficult aspects of life – the sudden death of a brother, a family grieving, some of the more unyielding aspects of a religious upbringing, the quite stark backdrop of a Dutch dairy farm, which can be quite a tough place for a child.”
The International Booker Prize 2020: the shortlist
The Enlightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar
The Adventures of China Iron by Gabriela Cabezon Camara
Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa